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8 Sustainable Retail Strategies for 2024

Sustainability is the buzzword among both retailers and consumers in 2024. According to a recent NielsenIQ study, 78% of consumers claim a sustainable lifestyle is essential, and 30% are more likely to purchase sustainability-focused products.1 And Sustainable Brands reports that 95% of U.S. consumers “at least sometimes” behave in ways that protect the planet, with 36% saying that they “always or often” do so.2

Gen Z is more likely to subscribe to a sustainable mentality and uphold sustainable practices than any other consumer demographic group. In fact, a recent ThredUp survey found that 64% of Generation Z consumers have purchased second-hand fashion items and 73% are willing to pay more for sustainable fashion.3 With Gen Z’s spending power exceeding $360 billion, it should come as no surprise that retailers are looking for ways to make their business more sustainable to attract these and other environmentally-conscious consumers.4

A Pivot to a Circular Economy

The circular economy and sustainability go hand in hand. The goal of the circular economy, a common retail sustainability initiative, is to pivot away from mining resources, turning them into products, and then turning them into waste. Instead, a circular economy reduces material use, redesigns materials, products, and services to be less resource intensive. ustainable practices help businesses wanting to participate in the circular economy recapture “waste” as a resource to manufacture new materials and provide more sustainable product options. According to a recent report: “every percentage point increase in the circular economy market – including renting, reselling, repairing, refurbishing – could save 13 million tons of CO2 equivalent.”5

Fueling this shift for sustainable retailing is an emerging “deinfluencing” social media trend urging followers to stop impulse buys on Instagram, X (formerly Twitter), and TikTok that harm the environment. The deinfluencing tag has been viewed over 322 million times on TikTok alone!6 “Anti-haul” posts are also showing up as a backlash to bulk orders (also known as hauls) from fast fashion retailers such as Zara, Temu, H&M, and Shein, which are accused of contributing to the “one and done” mentality of wearing it once and disposing of the item. Statistics show that 57% of discarded apparel ends up in landfills.

Sustainability Strategy Ideas

McKinsey & Company’s The State of Fashion 2024 highlights two burgeoning issues: climate change and sustainability laws.7 The consulting company implores manufacturers and retailers to embrace change in their supply chain and other business operations to reduce emissions and revamp business models that rely on outdated environmental procedures. Here are eight sustainability practices and sustainable retail design elements to explore for your retail business in 2024 and the years to come:

#1 Join an Open Locker Network

Becoming an open locker network host is a lower-risk, cost-effective way for a retailer to implement smart lockers for BOPIS and retail returns – without each store having to pay for and install its own electronic locker configuration. Open locker networks are installed and maintained by a provider (such as Parcel Pending by Quadient) and are carrier and retailer-agnostic. This means any open retail locker network participants can leverage the self-service parcel locker solutions for secure, 24/7 order collections and returns. In short, open locker networks optimize delivery and return process operations for a more sustainable product return process, reducing the number of delivery vehicles on the road and minimizing the associated carbon emissions created by your supply chain. These networks streamline delivery routes for retailers and carriers, making deliveries and returns more efficient and eco-friendy.

#2 Explore a Rental Model

Rentals also fill the demand for sustainable retailing, allowing one item to be used multiple times. IKEA, Home Depot, Lowe’s, and Rent the Runway allow one item to be used many times by consumers (e.g., tools, clothing, furniture).

#3 Recycle Your Customers’ Used Goods

The resale market is exploding – whether it’s labeled recommerce, secondhand, used, pre-owned, pre-loved, resale, vintage, or antique. The global secondhand apparel market is expected to reach $350 billion by 2027, according to resale site thredUP, up from $177 billion in 2022.8

Well-loved fashion brands are creating their own resale market under a variety of sub-brand labels, including Eileen Fisher (Renew), Lululemon (Like New), REI (ReSupply), North Face (Renewed Take Back) and John Fluevog (The Fluemarket). These exchanges allow the apparel brands to retain revenue that might otherwise go to other used marketplaces such as Poshmark, The RealReal, Depop, and Vestiaire Collective, while also helping the environment. This ingenious retail sustainability initiative also keeps shoppers loyal as virtually all labels noted above only provide store or brand credit for future purchases, never a cash payment.

#4 Reduce Your Carbon Footprint

Shipping costs account for 14% of global greenhouse emissions.9 Many 3PL (third-party logistics) providers can implement more sustainable options.

#5 Recycle and Upcycle Everything

Returns, unsold inventory, samples, and deadstock can easily find their way into valuable purposes. Besides donating to a worthy charity, look at upcycling items to make a new item. Patagonia, for example, goes beyond merely accepting worn garments through its Worn Wear program and repairs and repurposes objects, saving an estimated 120,000 items that might have ended up as waste.10Urban Outfitters, too, creates upcycled vintage items that are reimagined and redesigned.

#6 Eliminate Paper

The days of long CVS receipts should be over; it’s time to start delivering e-receipts to your customers. Digital receipts not only help your shoppers easily retrieve them for returns, but also saves paper. And the best perk? Emailing receipts is the first step towards building a robust email marketing strategy.

#7 Leverage Technology

Sephora, Ulta, and Warby Parker are retailers leading the way when it comes to “try-on” technology. Customers upload a photo and then virtually test make-up or eyeglasses. Other e-tailers are using avatars to test the fit of clothes. The ultimate goal? Limiting returns. With the National Retail Federation estimating that consumers will return $816 billion in 2022, returns are a double-hit to sustainability – especially as goods are shipped using precious, non-renewable energy.11 More often than not, returns end up in landfills as they are out of season or unsaleable. Better educating shoppers, alerting customers to chat vs. “bracket” a few sizes, and technological advances all work towards a more eco-friendly approach to retailing.

#8 Ship Goods Using Compostable and Recycled Materials

Each year, 420 million tons of paper and cardboard are produced.12 Source post-consumer paper for shipping and encourage recycling in marketing messages. Investigate compostable, recyclable, or reusable supplies. Small changes to your sustainable retail design like these can have a big (and positive!) environmental impact.

Consumer interest in climate change and sustainability is not a trend, rather it’s a permanent part of their thinking. They will spend more dollars and remain loyal to retailers implementing changes that favor the environment.

Ready to learn more about how smart lockers can make your retail operations more sustainable? Contact one of our parcel management experts today.



  1. Case, Scot. Top 10 sustainable consumer research findings. nrf.com. April 19, 2023. https://nrf.com/blog/top-10-sustainable-consumer-research-findings
  2. Sustainable Brands. SB Socio-Cultural Trends Research™. pages.sustainablebrands.com. October 7, 2023. https://pages.sustainablebrands.com/socio-cultural-research
  3. Liu, Chuanlan, Jeremy M. Bernardoni, and Zhongjie Wang. 2023. “Examining Generation Z Consumer Online Fashion Resale Participation and Continuance Intention through the Lens of Consumer Perceived Value” Sustainability 15, no. 10: 8213. https://doi.org/10.3390/su15108213
  4. Pollard, Amelia. Gen Z Has $360 Billion to Spend, Trick is Getting Them to Buy. www.bloomberg.com. November 17, 2021. https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2021-11-17/gen-z-has-360-billion-to-spend-trick-is-getting-them-to-buy
  5. Berg, A., Granskog, A., Lee, L., et al. Fashion on climate. www.mckinsey.com. August 26, 2020. https://www.mckinsey.com/industries/retail/our-insights/fashion-on-climate
  6. Johnson, Arianna. Rise of the Deinfluencer: Growing Social-Media Movement Challenges Influencers And Consumerism. www.forbes.com. March 8, 2023. https://www.forbes.com/sites/ariannajohnson/2023/03/08/rise-of-the-deinfluencer-growing-social-media-movement-challenges-influencers-and-consumerism/?sh=acad7b74a444
  7. Balchandani, A., Starzynska, E., Barrelet, D., et al. The State of Fashion 2024: Finding pockets of growth as uncertainty reigns. www.mckinsey.com. November 29, 2023. https://www.mckinsey.com/industries/retail/our-insights/state-of-fashion
  8. ThredUP. 2023 Resale Market and Consumer Trend Report. www.thredup.com. April 5, 2023. https://www.thredup.com/resale
  9. Damen, Alexis. Sustainable Retail: 15 Steps to Success with Examples. www.shopify.com. September 20, 2023. https://www.shopify.com/retail/sustainability-retail
  10. Weavabel. 9 Brands That Are Embracing Fashion Upcycling. www.weavabel.com. January 3, 2022. https://www.weavabel.com/blog/brands-that-are-embracing-fashion-upcycling
  11. Poe, Sheryll. How reverse logistics makes the retail cycle go around. nrf.com. November 8, 2023. https://nrf.com/blog/how-reverse-logistics-makes-retail-cycle-go-around
  12. The World Counts. Tons of paper produced in the world, this year. www.theworldcounts.com. n.d. https://www.theworldcounts.com/challenges/consumption/other-products/environmental-impact-of-paper